Pass rush helps Bucs overcome Vikings

by Gary Shelton on December 14, 2020

in general

Scotty Miller caught a long touchdown pass./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

Sometimes, a team wins and the reaction is "wow."

For the Tampa Bay Bucs, the proper comment about their latest win is "how."

The Bucs tackled poorly, and they didn't stop the Minnesota Vikings' running attack. They allowed Kirk Cousins far too many completions.

But the Bucs won, 26-14, to stay ahead in their scramble for a post-season berth Sunday. The chief reason was the wobbly kicking of Dan Bailey, who missed three field goals and an extra point to prevent the Vikings from building a bigger lead early in the game. Bailey is two-for-six in his last two games.

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“It’s huge,"Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "We had to do this – it was a big game for us. Guys did their job [during the Bye Week]. They rested, they took care of the virus, we came back clean and healthy and it showed up today. We were a very fresh team, I thought, in the fourth quarter.

"We got the tiebreaker on these guys. This is a good football team – they’re going to win some games down the stretch. We’re [taking it] one day at a time – that’s what I just told the guys. It was a great win because it started on Tuesday. We had great practices this Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday [and] Saturday. This week is different [because] we can’t meet Mondays and Tuesdays. We have another different way that we have to handle getting ready to play a ballgame. Whether it’s virtual [or] however we get it done – we’ll get it done and just make sure that we take care of tomorrow’s business tomorrow."

The Bucs had six sacks -- two by Shaq Barrett -- which was their biggest weapon in the game.

QuarterbackTom Brady didn't have an interception. He had had seven in the previous four games.

“Winning in the NFL is tough," Brady said. "I’ve been doing this for a long time – there’s no easy games. Every one is a battle and this is a team that’s won four-of-five [games] or five-of-six. They’ve been in a lot of games and [are] very competitive. They’ve got some great players on offense, some really dynamic players on defense – especially in the secondary – and it was good to just get a win. It feels good. By the end of tonight, we’ll move on and get ready for Atlanta and go there. It’s going to be the biggest game of our season.”

For the Bucs, the victory came despite one of their most ragged games of the season. The Bucs didn't tackle well -- and running back Dalvin Cook's 102 yards rushing made him the first back to have a 100-yard game in 21 games.

 "I knew coming out of the open date [that] tackling was going to be an issue," Arians said. "It is in December anyway because it’s so long since the last game that you’ve tackled. You just don’t tackle in practice and you can’t. I was upset about the tackling in the first quarter, but I really was happy with the pass rush. Pushing those kicks back were huge the whole game.”

Brady had moments when the ball got away from him, but he had a rating of 120.9, his highest since the Carolina game. He hit on a 48-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller and had a Hail Mary pass before the end of the first half that the Vikings were guilty of interference on.

“It was a good play," Brady said of his pass to Miller. "They ended up rushing three and the line did a great job protecting. They’ve been protecting [well] all year and they protected great today. Didn’t get much pressure, very few penalties – if any. I don’t really remember any. They gave me a lot of time on that play. Scotty ran the post, just got it up over the top of the safety and Scotty made a great catch. Big play for us – we’ve just got to keep making them.”

The Bucs placed running back Leonard Fournette on the inactive list and used Shady McCoy as their third-down back.

“I love Leonard," Arians said. "I think he’s a heck of a kid and a great player. We just wanted to get ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy) back involved. He’s fresh and he showed it today. He made it all pay off for me. I took the risk and he made it pay off. He made the best of his opportunity, but it’s nothing against Leonard.”

Ronald Jones II had 80 yards, giving him 900 for the season.

Despite the slow start, the Bucs shut out Minnesota in the fourth quarter.

“I thought two things. We stopped them [and the] offense came down and got the field goal that made it a two-score game. We knew it was hunting time for the defensive line and I thought we got after them really [well]. Our secondary played [well], we got after Kirk [Cousins] – he didn’t stand in the pocket very often [for] very long and that’s what we can do. If we get rid of the running game and get them in a two-score game that time in the ballgame, we should be getting after them.”

The victory puts the Bucs in position to end their long streak of missing the playoffs (since 2007). They have three games to go, two of them against a 4-9 Atlanta team and once against 5-8 Detroit team.

The Bucs travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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